All right guys, blog time again. Partly because I’m avoiding my Historical Geology homework, and because I just finished my meeting with Patrick. For those of you not privy, Patrick is the director of the Creative Writing Department at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. We’re working together on making my stories better this semester.
Now, before I get knee deep into today’s topic, I’m feeling a little descriptive. Allow me to paint your minds.
For those of you not in AZ (lucky you), it is cloudy today, and it actually rained this morning! There’s a cool breeze that continuously shakes the umbrella attached to the wrought iron patio furniture I’m sitting at. This small circle of tables, surrounded by a low lying concrete wall forms the modest courtyard of Chandler-Gilbert’s A and B buildings. I’m sitting, in my Jason Mraz hoodie, drinking a cup of Seattle’s Best (Henry’s Blend, medium, 3 sugars and cream), enjoying strawberry poptarts and listening to Snow Patrol.
There, setting has been officially set.
Now, to today’s topic!
In my meeting with Patrick (do you like how we’ve already come full circle?) we discussed my story “Goodbye Marla”. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that “Marla” has already been published, so why would we go over it again? Here’s what I have to say to that: if you’re an artist in any capacity, you know that nothing you create will ever be good enough. You will always wish you’d done this, or changed that, and no matter how successful or how well liked your work is, you will always see its flaws. The sooner you come to terms with this, and get used to this way of thinking, the less miserable you will be.
All right, tangent officially over.
The first thing Patrick told me about “Marla”, in his small but iconically “Patrick” office, was that he loved my main character, Jason’s, voice. Which led me to tell Patrick that yesterday in my Novel Writing class we were workshopping my chapters and everyone loved my character’s voice. I seem to be getting a lot of voice compliments, which I am very proud of.
Have you guessed today’s topic yet?
DING DING DING!!!!!!
Voice it is!
So what about it? What does voice lend to a story and what am I doing that everyone’s enjoying it? How can you do that too?
Get ready because here we go!
According to Wikipedia (I hear you groaning English Professors, and I tell you, Wikipedia is fine as long as you know what you’re looking for), Voice is the literary term used to describe the individual writing style of an author.
Think of your favorite authors, the ones you come back to time and again and stand in line for when a new book comes out. What do you love about them? You love their characters? You love the world their stories take place in? You love the relationships between characters? Think broader, more base.
Ultimately, you love the way they tell stories. And that’s what voice really is. It’s how the author tells you the story. Anyone can tell a story! And that’s why I believe that anyone can write a story, but think about it this way…
Do you know any six year olds? I do. Think about when they tell you a story. It usually takes a while, gets side-tracked, and doesn’t usually finish very well, right? It just sort of ends? Well, at six, they’re just telling you what happened, and what they thought and what that makes them think now. Which is all fine and good. But once you’ve discovered your voice, you begin to learn what parts of the story people actually want to hear, and you learn to tell those parts in even more interesting ways.
And once you’ve discovered your voice? What then?
Write anything and everything! Journaling is an extremely effective way of developing voice, because you’re just writing in your own voice with no pressure for excellence or even correct spelling and grammar (unless you’re like me and a stickler even in your private writings).
So, we’ve talked about author’s voice, but what did Patrick mean when he said he loved Jason’s voice?
When you’ve developed your own voice, and you write naturally with it, you’ll discover that your characters take on a voice of their own. Jason’s a southern rocker with a long list of lovers. Pretty much the opposite from me in every way. Therefore, if he’s developed, he shouldn’t talk like me. He’s nothing like me!
Side note: I just took a sip of my coffee…. it’s rather cold. Nothing induces a gag reflex in me quite like cold coffee…. BLEGH!
OK, we’re back. Sorry, my mind’s a bit all over the place today.
So, when writing in Jason’s voice, there are a lot of things to consider. First of all, he’s Southern. So, he has an accent. But, if you refer to the work, you’ll see that in the dialogue I don’t hit you over the head with a Southern drawl. That would be heavy handed and distracting. Instead, I think of Jason’s voice in a sense of rhythm. Maybe it’s because he’s a musician, I don’t know, but that’s how I think of it. I know that because of his accent, there’s a slowness to his words. I know that his voice is soft when he speaks, but throaty and rough when he sings. I also know that he doesn’t say much, but that he chooses his words carefully, and packs a punch when he needs to.
Again, all of this is pretty opposite from me. I tend to blather on about nothing and don’t think before swan diving into awkward situations.
All of this lets me create Jason’s voice, and make him sound real. Because to me, he IS real. If your characters aren’t developed, their voices will waver. And I believe it’s true for the author as well. The more you learn and know about yourself, the better your writing voice will be.
So, get out there and read. Then write. Then read some more. Then write even more. Challenge yourself by creating characters the polar opposite of yourself. And don’t stop, no matter what.
P.S. Happy Valentine’s Day, and Happy Centennial, Arizona!